Wheat Price Spike Raises Food Insecurity — UN Expert – for Sep. 13, 2010

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Riots over high bread prices in Mozambique and food shortages elsewhere should be a wake-up call for governments which papered over food security problems that arose two years ago, a United Nations expert warned Sept. 7.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said during a mission to Syria that donors had not been delivering on their aid promises and that public anger in countries like Mozambique was predictable.

“Most poor countries are still highly vulnerable,” De Schutter said in a statement. “Their food security is excessively dependent on food imports whose prices are increasingly high and volatile.”

In Mozambique, 13 people were killed and nearly 150 arrested last month after riots sparked by a 30 per cent rise in the price of bread – a result of soaring global wheat prices.

In response, the government announced that it would reverse the bread price increases, using subsidies to cover the costs.

Egyptians have also protested over food prices and experts have warned that riots could break out elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East.De Schutter estimated that two

million to three million Syrians now face food shortages following four years of severe drought.

Small-scale farmers and herders in Syria have seen their incomes drop as much as 90 per cent as a result of the drought, according to the independent expert.

“Many families have had to choose to reduce their food intake: 80 per cent of those affected were reported to live on bread and sugared tea,” he said.

Adding to strains from natural disasters, De Schutter said commodity traders and investors have skewed food markets with their bets.

“Price increases are exacerbated by speculation from unregulated traders, and they are transmitted directly to households, who often spend 60 to 70 per cent of their incomes on food,” he said.

Although the world cereal output in 2010 should still be the third highest on record, fears about future supplies have led the prices of wheat to increase 70 per cent on international markets since last year, according to the United Nations.

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